The purpose of the Dred Scott decision is to make property and nothing but property of the Negro in all States of the Union. It is the old issue of human rights versus property rights. It is the eternal struggle between two principles: the one, the common right of humanity, the other, the divine right of kings. It is the same spirit which says, “You toil and work and earn bread and I’ll eat it.” As a nation, we began by declaring all men are created equal. There was no mention of any exception to that rule in the Declaration of Independence. But we now practically read it ‘all men are created equal except Negroes.’ If we are to accept this doctrine of race or class discrimination, what is to stop us in the future from decreeing ‘all men are created equal except Negroes, foreigners, Catholics, Jews,’ or just ‘poor people’? That is the conclusion towards which the advocates of slavery are driving us. ‘Let each State mind its own business,’ says Judge Douglas. ‘Why stir up trouble?’ This is the complacent policy of indifference to evil, and that policy I cannot but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our Republic of its just influence in the world, enables the enemies of free institutions everywhere to taunt us as hypocrites, causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many good men among ourselves into an open war with the very fundamentals of civil liberty, denying the good faith of the Declaration of Independence and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self interest. In his final words tonight, the Judge said that we can be the terror of the world. I don’t think we want to be that. I think we would prefer to be the encouragement of the world – the proof that at last, man is worthy to be free. But we shall provide no such encouragement unless we can establish our ability as a nation to live and grow, and we shall surely do neither if these States fail to remain united. There can be no distinction in the definition of liberty as between one section and another, one class and another, one race and another. A house divided itself cannot stand. This government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.
Abe Lincoln in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln